Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Death Sentence by Alexander Gordon Smith

Smith, Alexander Gordon. Death Sentence.
Alex has been gravely injured in his escape attempt in Solitary (if you haven't read that and don't want spoilers, stop. But this is the third book, so yes, he did make it out). The warden is "saving" him by painful surgery and drugs, both of which are turning Alex into a blackshirt and making him forget who he is. The warden also tries to desensitze him to violence, having him kill rats and trying to get him to kill people. He refuses, however, and eventually assembles a group of inmates and encourages them to attempt another escape, especially when he convinces them that while he looks like a blackshirt, he is really one of them. We find out that the chemicals used on Alex were created during World War II with considerable Nazi influence, and that's almost a hundred years in the past. More information about the nefarious activities of the Furnace come out, and there are epic battles galore.
Strengths: It occurred to me that for a gory novel, this is packed with description and philosophy! The first part of the book is really only about the medical procedures and Alex's struggle between having been weak and being made strong, but the descriptions are so graphic that it will keep the boys reading. And they are not overly graphic, and the violence is not gratuitous. Must say that this was absolutely not the sort of book I personally wanted to read, but I had to admire the strength of the writing and the cleverness of sugarcoating the great philosophy with gore. Even more interesting is setting this book against the class struggles currently going on in the UK. Is Smith all that far off in his vision for the future?
Weaknesses: I can see parents and librarians being warying of this because of the violence, but put into context it does make a thought provoking book. I just really needed to read some Beverly Cleary after it!

Personality Leakage and Library Tips:
Did not pick Death Sentence on purpose to post for the first day of school-- I have a heavily "girl" pile of books at home and wanted to post at least one "boy" book this week!

Today should be interesting. I will see all 260 6th graders today, 70 of them during one 30 minute period. HOWEVER, I finally came up with a brilliant plan-- I will give the teachers sticky notes and have the children sign the circulation cards and put a sticky note with their name and homeroom on the cover of the book at leave the books on a cart at the circulation desk. After school (no cross country practice, whew!), I can check all of the books out on the computer and deliver them to home rooms. I can get books to 70 students in 30 minutes, I just lack the celerity to get them checked out on the computer that quickly. After the ten 6th grade classes are through, I will try to get books to 8th graders in study hall because tomorrow and Friday during 6th period I will have 90 students in a thirty minute period. Activate Amazing Super Powers!

My guess: 400 books checked out today, 1,200 by week's end! I love the beginning of school!


  1. Way to go! That sounds like a great book delivery plan to me.

  2. Holy moly, that's a lot of students and a lot of books!

    I, too, vastly prefer the "check out later and deliver" method, even though I never have more than twenty students in at one time. Good for you for figuring out a system that works.

  3. Anonymous5:50 PM EDT

    It sounds as if they were starved for reading material over the summer. B.